According to 501ctrust.org, over the past decade there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of non-profits. The number of staff in non-profits has grown by more than 50 percent. Over the same period, there has been only a 2–3 percent increase in the number of for-profit companies. Nonprofitrisk.org reports non-profits are also growing six times faster than for-profits in the past decade. Working in non-profits is considered a more favorable working environment. In addition, non-profits are seeing more investment in innovative programs. Non-profits organizations are now the third largest employer in the United States.
What’s all this buzz, growth, and excitement about non-profits about? It doesn’t take too much to connect the dots. At one time, the church was the epicenter of the community. The people of the community were not only a part of the church, but they served their community through the church. The church was the first to rally around whatever the community needed to provide, solve a problem, or bring about transformation. In the case of early Methodism, they met community needs by building hospitals, orphanages, and schools. However, as the culture has become less and less church-centric, the church has become less and less the epicenter of the community. The church has lost its influence and impact. There are fewer people involved in the life of the church resulting in fewer people to be involved in the community on behalf of the church. Further complicating the issue is the escalating average age of congregations resulting is lessening capacity and energy.
The Millennials and Gen Z’s are now the most missing generations from the church. These generations report the church being irrelevant, hypocritical, and its institution and leaders as being untrustworthy. Yet, these same younger generations have a deep desire to make a lasting impact in the world. They care less about money and possessions than previous generations and care more about experiences and making a difference. Where past generations might have been able to live out their passions in the church, because of the disconnect, these younger generations now seek out the non-profit sector to live out their passions and desires.
The irony is not lost. There is a growing spirituality in society while there is a declining interest in organized religion. There is declining attendance in churches, but a dramatic increase in the growth of non-profit organizations and its employees. There are two generations who are now in the workforce or will soon be in the workforce who have a passion to make a difference in the world resulting in a big impact.
Church, this shift is not bad news. It is simply our culture responding to our irrelevance as the church. We are speaking a foreign language and acting within a foreign culture they don’t understand. And yes, this is on us! However, there is an opportunity in all of these shifts as well. For those willing to speak the language of the culture, be of the culture, and of the people (become culturally relevant once again), we can reach these younger generations in new ways. These new ways just may be through creating multiple income streams and additional non-profits arms of the church that are attractive to the very generations the church is trying to reach. For assistance in analyzing what non-profit might be right for your church, check out Creation Incubator.